You have just been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Your doctor recommends that you should be started on CPAP therapy. Suppose you are not familiar with CPAP therapy. In that case, there are probably a lot of unanswered questions going through your mind. To help answer some of these questions, I wanted to explain two different types of machines that treat OSA, which one could be right for you, and things to look out for when you have been started on a machine.

What is CPAP Therapy

OSA is a widespread sleep disorder. If you have OSA, your airway narrows when you sleep, either partially or entirely. To treat this disorder, the airway needs to be kept open. This is exactly what the CPAP machine does.

CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure.” Essentially, this machine creates pressured air to help support your natural breathing during sleep. The pressure on a CPAP machine is continuous, meaning the same force or air pressure will happen as you breathe in and out.

The majority of patients do well with CPAP therapy. However, some can have difficulty. Because the CPAP machine has continuous pressure when you breathe, both when you inhale and exhale, some patients can find it difficult to breathe out against that pressured air. This typically occurs when you require higher CPAP pressures to keep your airway open. To help the issue, there is another type of machine called a BPAP or BiPAP machine.

What is the Difference Between CPAP & BPAP

BPAP stands for “bilevel positive airway pressure.” As you can probably tell from the name, BPAP therapy will give you two different pressures – one pressure as you breathe in and lower pressure as you breathe out. When you have difficulty tolerating CPAP pressures, this is known as “pressure intolerance.” When you describe these issues with your doctor, a BPAP machine may be recommended to try next. This may be more comfortable for you because you will get support from the pressured air as you breathe in. The pressure will decrease significantly to allow you to breathe out more comfortably.

Getting Use To The Machines

Being started on a PAP machine can be quite daunting. If you have never had to use one before, it can take some time to get used to the feeling of forced air going into your lungs as you are breathing in and out. The majority of patients will do quite well when they start CPAP therapy. However, a few things can make using PAP therapy easier to use and hopefully, a good experience.

A common complaint with PAP therapy is the feeling of “choking” or “suffocating.” This can happen for a couple of reasons. Specific settings on the machine will allow the pressure to slowly increase to enable you to fall asleep. Once you fall asleep, the pressure will then increase to full capacity. Sometimes, this can be bothersome if you are not getting enough pressure in the beginning. As a result, you will have this choking or suffocating feeling. The pressure needs to be adjusted to allow the pressure to increase more quickly before you fall asleep to fix this. 

If this occurs in the middle of the night, this can happen because the pressure might be too high. As discussed previously, to help fix this, the pressure needs to be adjusted to not go too high in the middle of the night.

Another great tip is to make sure that you have a good seal on your mask. If air escapes and causes an air leak, this causes some pressure issues and make it difficult to tolerate the pressure. Air leaking from the mask can also cause air to blow into your eyes or the sides of your nose and mouth. This can be bothersome because you can feel the air escaping. Sometimes, this can make a whistling noise that can bother you and your bed partner.

In conclusion

“PAP” therapy is used to treat obstructive sleep apnea to help keep the airway open during sleep. There are two main types of machines that can be used to help support the airway during sleep. Depending on how you tolerate pressure therapy will help dictate which machine is right for you.